§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restrain nuisance by aircraft noise; to restore freedom to pursue actions against aircraft owners and operators for nuisance by noise and vibration; to empower the President of the Board of Trade more effectively to limit and restrain aircraft noise; to empower the Parliamentary Commissioner to inquire into and report on all such questions; and for purposes connected therewith.
If I may quote the Long Title of the Bill, it is aBill to restrain nuisance by aircraft noise: to restore freedom to pursue actions against aircraft owners and operators "—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The House decided that leave to introduce a Bill under the Ten-Minute Rule should be asked for at this time of day. I hope that hon. Members will listen or will leave the Chamber quietly.
§ Mr. Jenkins
This is a Bill, to quote the Long Title,to restrain nuisance by aircraft noise; to restore freedom to pursue actions against aircraft owners and operators for nuisance by noise and vibration; to empower the President of the Board of Trade more effectively to limit and restrain aircraft noise: to empower the Parliamentary Commissioner to inquire into and report on all such questions; and for purposes connected therewith.One duty of Parliament, and an increasingly important one, is to see that the interests of the community as a whole are not overriden by technological advance. It is not for us to adapt ourselves to the machine, but to adapt the machine to ourselves. Scientists are over-fond of testing the limits of human tolerance to noise. They would be better advised to accept a limit well below the level of human tolerance and work to that.
We failed to control the internal combustion engine, which is choking our cities, and we are failing to grapple with the jet engine, which is making life quicker for those who fly with it at the cost of severe distress for many thousands who live near the great airports.
It is necessary to assert the needs of the community on the ground over the minority who are flying at any one time. The aim, however, must be not to prevent technological advance, but to forbid 1445 its more anti-social manifestations. More and more people will use jet aircraft—when the Government permit—and the matter cannot wait, because the development of supersonic aircraft with sound-barrier and ear-drum breaking claps of noise beyond the loudest thunder will bring this matter, which is already approaching the bounds of human toleration, well beyond it.
Many Members of the House and others have tried methods of seeking relief. 1 do not complain that when hon. Members have heard the subject they should feel, "We have been here before". The correspondence on this matter, however, continues to grow. The file I have with me is only this year's correspondence for one hon. Member; and I have a file equal in size to it for 1965 and one almost as large for 1964. There have been discussions, meetings, deputations and publicity. Almost everything has been tried. The Ministry of Aviation,' in the person of its various Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, has been unfailingly courteous and has occasionally conceded a point here and there.
Night flights have been cut. Landings have been transferred from one flight path to another or sometimes even from one airport to another. When the fuss breaks out elsewhere, however, they seem to be quietly transferred back to the point where the original fuss broke out. At least, that is what the figures with which the Ministry of Aviation has provided me over a period seem to suggest. Internal jet flights are now allowed in spite of the fact that British European Airways did not want them and of the relatively small saving in time.
Soundproofing of houses has been conceded, but this is no answer. Summer is the time when the noise is at its worst. People should not be compelled to seal themselves like prisoners in their own houses because to open the windows is to admit ear-splitting roars and screams which cannot be borne at the frequencies which are now customary at the peak season. It is medically agreed that the more often the noise is repeated, the less it can be borne. Landings at Heathrow in summer on a single runway average 10 per hoar, which means that at peak times my constituents and those of other hon. Members are being bashed every few 1446 minutes, and sometimes every minute, for long periods.
The community needs protection against itself. Endeavours to give this protection have been made in many countries. International agreements will have to be reached, because the silencing of aircraft is not only a matter of scientific development but is also one of economics and finance. It is already possible to reduce noise to a tolerable level at a cost in payload of about 5 per cent., but which country will make that sacrifice or impose it upon others without international agreement?
In the United States, Congressman Herbert Tenzer, whose constituency in relation to Kennedy Airport, New York, is geographically about the same as my constituency of Putney to London Airport, is proposing legislation similar in some ways to that which I now seek the leave of the House to introduce. We cannot, however, hope to get effective international agreement without starting to put our own house in order. Perhaps there are those who have given up and who go through the motions of protest to assuage public opinion while privately believing that little or nothing can be done. I do not accept that, and my Bill would ask the House not to accept it. It is certainly not accepted by the sponsors, of all parties, drawn from hon. Members with constituents living under the glide paths.
We could not expect more than we have received from the Ministry of Aviation, for, in spite of the helpfulness of its Ministers, it is primarily a noise-making Ministry and not a noise-preventing one. It is concerned with flying and not primarily with those on the ground. Perhaps we shall be able to do better now that responsibility has been transferred to the Board of Trade.
One of the things which the Bill would seek to do is to strengthen the power of the President of the Board of Trade to limit and to restrain aircraft noise. It would seek to reduce the permitted level of noise which, at the moment, is 110 perceived noise decibels by day and 102 perceived noise decibels by night. There is a certain noise level going on in the House at the moment, but I am glad to say that it is considerably below the level 1447 of the aircraft noise which I seek to restrain.
The Bill would seek to reduce the level to 100 noise decibels immediately, and then to 90 noise decibels over a period of five years. That is a perfectly practicable proposition, and there is no reason why it should not be done, given a little determination on both sides to push it through.
The Bill would restore freedom to pursue actions against aircraft owners and operators for nuisance by aircraft noise. We can never hope to tackle the problem while those who make the noise enjoy legal immunity. The Bill would provide a defence against such actions if it could be proved that a noise level of no more than 100 decibels was being produced at the time.
It would empower the Parliamentary Commissioner, or Ombudsman, to inquire into and report on matters of aircraft noise, and that may entail an Amendment to the Bill just published by the Government. The Bill, also, may contain other provisions which I have circulated to interested hon. Members and the Minister. For example, it would require the Minister to initiate a new international airport on the South-East coast.
I recognise that another proposal to prohibit jet flights over land altogether, which was contained in a document that I circulated to hon. Members, may perhaps have to be amended in Committee when—and I hope that the House will allow me to say that rather than "if" —we reach that stage.
1448 The measures to which I have referred, and which are contained in the LONG TITLE of the Bill, are essential if we are to begin to tackle a problem which we must tackle if life is to remain tolerable or, in many areas, become tolerable for the thousands of people who live near large airports in several parts of these small islands.
I do not ask the Government to say that they accept the Bill. I ask them-to say that they recognise the need and will give me leave to introduce it, will-study it when it is printed, and will do so with the intention of making real progress in limiting a menace which has become intolerable in the full sense of the word.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Hugh Jenkins, Mr. Russell Kerr, Mr. Gresham Cooke, Miss Joan Lestor, Mr. John Smith, Mr. John Ryan, aid Mr. Reader Harris.